EC: visa free travel for Turkish citizens, only if 5 remaining benchmarks are completed

EC: visa free travel for Turkish citizens, only if 5 remaining benchmarks are completed

The European Commission is today proposing to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey, under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfil, as a matter of urgency and as they committed to do so on 18 March 2016, the outstanding 5 benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.

This decision has been taken by the college of Commissioners today in Brussels and was presented by First Vice President Frans Timmermans.

The 5 outstanding benchmarks are:
– fight against corruption,
– data protection,
– judicial cooperation with all Member States,
– enhanced cooperation with EUROPOL and
– revision of the legislation and practices on terrorism.

The 72 requirements listed in the Roadmap are organised in five thematic groups: document security; migration management; public order and security; fundamental rights and readmission of irregular migrants.

Turkey also undertook the obligation to enact the multilateral EU – Turkey readmission agreement by 1st of June and introduce biometric passports by the end of the year. No Turkish citizen without a biometric passport shall be exempt from visa obligations, even with a positive decision by the European Council.

Frans Timmermans noted that completion of the remaining 5 benchmarks “is a challenge for Turkey and it will require huge political determination”, but the is no room for shortcuts by the EU28.

( the 5 benchmarks are: adopting the measure to prevent corruption foreseen by the Roadmap, ensuring an effective follow-up to the recommendations issued by the Council of Europe`s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO); aligning the legislation on personal data protection with EU standards, notably to ensure that the data protection authority can act in an independent manner and that the activities of law enforcement agencies fall within the scope of the law; concluding an operational cooperation agreement with Europol; offering effective judicial cooperation in criminal matters to all EU Member States; revising the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, , notably by better aligning the definition of terrorism in order to narrow the scope of the definition and by introducing a criterion of proportionality).

Visa free regime may be also suspended, under a new stricter rule book of the “Visa Regulation” ( Suspension Mechanism ) which would allow the EU to temporarily re-impose visa requirements for nationals of a third country in case of a substantial and sudden increase of irregular migration from that country. This suspension mechanism can be triggered by any Member State, by notifying the Commission that it is confronted with an emergency situation which it cannot remedy on its own, flowing from visa-free travel.

The Member States concerned can activate this mechanism in case of a substantial and sudden increase in the number of:
– nationals of that third country found illegally overstaying;
– unfounded asylum applications from nationals of that third country;
– rejected readmission requests to that third country for its own nationals.

(CNA/THA/GCH 2016)